This must be getting serious! Over the summer we took our first test drive in a heavy duty (HD) truck, a Ford Super Duty 350 with the 6.7 L Power Stroke V8 Turbo Diesel engine. This truck has 400 Horsepower and 800 foot pounds of torque (and torque is what gets the towing job done). It’s payload is over 3,000 pounds and it can tow a fifth wheel trailer all the way up to just over 16,000 pounds (with dual rear wheels up to 21,700 pounds, crazy!) The 5th wheel RV we are considering, the NUWA Hitchhiker Discover America 339 RSB, weighs 12,180 pounds dry (this means with no water, household items, or basically nothing that we need to live on board), and a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 15,600. So if you do a little math we can load up the 5th wheel with 3,420 pounds of our stuff before we are overloaded. This particular Super Duty truck is more than up to the task.
The test drive was fun. This Ford Super Duty 350 was surprisingly easy to drive. Except for its size not much different than our Jeep Grand Cherokee. It is amazing that a truck with this capability can be so civilized. What fun and how nice! The kids car seats fit with ample room to spare in the back seat. The front seats are split 40/20/40 enabling a third person in the front, giving us the ability to easily carry six (I’ll bet seven in a pinch). This will be useful when folks visit us while we are on the road. And what did this truck not have? Well I can’t think of a thing it did not have; it had heated seats, heated steering wheel, leather, back-up camera, navigation, MyFord Touch, sunroof, and on and on. All of which pushed the price to $58K! Since we are thinking of a used truck that price isn’t so scary, similar used 2011 models are selling for around $45K. Still a lot of money but this is the nature of the beast.
Next up for us is the Chrysler RAM 3500 and either the Chevrolet Silverado 3500 or GMC Sierra 3500 (basically the same truck).
As a note, this HD truck business gets rather complicated when it involves towing a 5th wheel. You sure can get a lot of conflicting and bias information and opinions too. As we mentioned in an earlier post all three of the HD truck makers offer trucks more than capable of towing whichever RV we end up purchasing. So in the end it may come down to some silly details. For instance, the two GM products (Silverado and Sierra) can not be purchased with both a sunroof and a 40/20/40 split front seat, meaning if we want a sunroof (and we do, we like to bird watch you know) and the ability to fit three people in the front seat we can’t. That kind of marketing (where you can’t get what you want without giving something up) is frustrating. Ford and RAM do not play this game, we can basically get whatever we want no matter. Now for an even sillier aspect, the Ford Super Duties have a peculiar habit of sagging in the back when loaded. So they go down the highway with their rear down and their hood up in the air. It looks ridiculous, but does it really matter? Well besides the fact that it bothers me it is also a safety issue, with the front wheels unloaded the truck is not as safe. This problem can be fixed by installing an air-suspension system, leveling the load, but why should this need to be done on a new HD truck?
Back to test drives. Still up, Ram and GM. And we also need to see what it is like driving a dual-rear-wheel HD with a eight foot bed (the Ford above was a short bed and single wheeled rear. For towing purposes an eight foot bed is recommend. The dual wheels in the back increase stability, making towing easier, safer and more enjoyable, but they make the truck pretty ungainly when making a quick trip say to the grocery store.